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Homing Desires/Desiring Homes: The Construction of Queer Domestic Space in Contemporary American Literature


The manifestation of a public "gay identity" at Stonewall has made possible the emergence of an openly gay literary tradition that continues to the present day. When viewed collectively, contemporary gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered writers exhibit extraordinary range in their choices of subject matter, form, and theme, yet critics have tended to categorize gay domestic narratives, particularly those written by "white," "middle-class" men, as participating in a cultural project that promotes normativity through its representation of gay subjects as "assimilative" and "sexless." In other words, these critics regard authors who concern themselves with the homespace and with familial relationality as participating in a cultural project that makes "gay identity" palatable for straight readers, thereby rendering a more transgressive "queer" subjecthood virtually invisible. By examining the literary blueprints for queer homespaces that have been drawn up by several contemporary American male writers, this dissertation project aims to counter the assumption that a privileging of "gay" homelife necessarily results in an assimilative loss of queer-ness and sociopolitical potential. In reading Christopher Isherwood's A Single Man (1964), Robert Ferro's The Family of Max Desir (1983), Samuel R. Delany's The Mad Man (1994), and Michael Cunningham's A Home at the End of the World (1990) through the lenses of architectural studies, queer and feminist theories, poststructuralism, and affect theory, I seek to recover the queer homespace as an unsettled and disruptive site in which heteronormativity is challenged and the obscured connections among domestic practice, social oppression, and queer resistance are revealed. In so doing, I seek to expand notions of both queer literary identities and the material sites from which queer resistance has been and might be waged.

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